Give organ donors first dibs

Give organ donors first dibs

November 10th, 2012 in Opinion Free Press

If you agree to donate your organs when you die, then you should get a break if you ever need an organ transplant. Instead you get the shaft -- and it could literally kill you. Fortunately, you no longer have to accept unfair treatment from the national organ allocation system.

About half of the organs transplanted in the United States go to people who haven't agreed to donate their own organs when they die. This happens because only about 50 percent of Americans are registered organ donors and because the national organ allocation system doesn't give people credit for doing so.

That's not fair to organ donors, and it's one of the reasons there is such a large shortage of transplantable organs in the United States. More than 116,000 people are on the transplant waiting list today, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). About 50,000 more people will join the waiting list in the next 12 months. More than half of the people who need an organ transplant in the United States die before they get one. More than 10,000 people die every year because they couldn't get a transplant.

Donating your organs when you die is obviously a very good thing to do. But why should you donate them to somebody who won't do the same for you? Wouldn't you rather save the lives of people who are generous enough to return the favor?

As long as there aren't enough organs to go around, somebody has to decide who gets the organs that are available. Many organ donors are content to let UNOS decide who will get their organs. But if you don't agree with their allocation rules, you don't have to use them. You can decide for yourself who will get your organs. Your right to do so is protected by federal and state law.

You don't have to let UNOS give your organs to someone who won't donate their organs. You can give your organs to other registered organ donors who have agreed to do the same for you. You can band together with other registered organ donors to make sure that you get a fair shake if you ever need an organ. You can do this by joining LifeSharers.

LifeSharers is a non-profit network of organ donors, started by a Tennessean and based in Nashville. Members agree to donate their organs when they die, and they direct that their organs be offered first to fellow members who may need them. Non-members can have access to the organs if no member who needs them is a suitable match. Membership in LifeSharers is free and open to everyone at www.lifesharers.org or by calling 888-ORGAN88.

Joining LifeSharers will improve your chances of getting an organ if you ever need one, and you will save lives by creating an incentive for others to join. As the LifeSharers membership base expands, the value of membership increases. By increasing the supply of organ donors, LifeSharers reduces the number of people dying waiting for transplants.

If you're an organ donor, don't let the organ allocation system give you the shaft. Join LifeSharers. Help yourself, and your fellow organ donors, get a fair shake.